Visit the San Gimignano Towers of Italy | a Guide on What to Do and See

San Gimignano Towers of Tuscany Italy | A Guide on What to do and See
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Visit the San Gimignano Towers of Italy | a Guide on What to Do and See

 

Hi! Thanks for stopping by! Living in Italy gave us so much time to explore the villages off the beaten path! After some research, we had to visit the San Gimignano Towers– a gorgeous ancient city (only 30 minutes south of Florence!) Come along on our exploration of this UNESCO world heritage site in Tuscany, Italy, and read our guide on what to see and do.

San Gimignano Towers of Tuscany Italy | A Guide on What to do and See

History of San Gimignano

The town of San Gimignano dates back to 3rd century BC, and was originally named after the founding brothers who built the first castle there. However, it was changed after the bishop from Modena, Saint Geminianus, saved the castle from an attack from none other than Attila the Hun! You thought he was just in movies!

San Gimignano Towers of Tuscany Italy | A Guide on What to do and See

In the Middle Ages, the town was prosperous with trading of local products like golden ham, saffron, and wine from the Vernaccia grape. It was like living in heaven, but with prosperity comes conflict. Local families started building huge towers to show off who had the most power. True story!

San Gimignano Towers of Tuscany Italy | A Guide on What to do and See

Whoever had the tallest tower reigned supreme! So, they kept out doing each other. At one time, 72 towers were in this little village, some as high as 70 meters (230 feet.) Holy tower power!

San Gimignano Towers of Tuscany Italy | A Guide on What to do and See

Finally, the city put an end to this silliness. Building any tower taller than the clock tower in the center square was restricted.

Some of the power families ignored this law, but eventually the towers were cut down to size!

San Gimignano Towers of Tuscany Italy | A Guide on What to do and See

The city continued to flourish until it was hit by the Black Plague in 1348. Then, it was forgotten until the 19th century when tourists found this cute little tower town. In 1990, the city center was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Today, it is a gorgeous and bustling village, however only 14 of the 72 San Gimignano towers still stand.

 

How to Get To San Gimignano

The closet airport is in Florence. However, you can fly into Florence, Rome, or even Milan.

Compare the best prices on flights to Italy here! 

Once you get to Italy, it is easy to rent a car and drive south from Milano and Florence, or north from Rome.

Compare car rentals here!


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San Gimignano Towers of Tuscany Italy | A Guide on What to do and See

Where to Stay in San Gimignano

You have to stay in on of the ancient San Gimignano towers! It is a must in the city of towers! Our choice – Fabio Apt Gimignano. It is in the historic city center, walking distance to everything. It is owned by San Gimignano locals, Fabio and Sara. They have rooms for families, full kitchens, free WiFi, and they will help you find a place to park. This is the full San Gimignano experience!

Compare prices of hotels here!

 

San Gimignano Towers of Tuscany Italy | A Guide on What to do and See

What to Do and See in San Gimignano

The best way to see the city is to walk. Wander around and enjoy the sites. We are huge fans of the Guided Walking Tours! We always learn so many cool things from the local guides. It’s a two-hour tour and totally worth your time! To take a guided tour of San Gimignano and its towers, reserve tickets here.

San Gimignano Towers of Tuscany Italy | A Guide on What to do and See

The Towers of San Gimignano

San Gimignano Towers of Tuscany Italy | A Guide on What to do and See

Piazza della Cisterna

This piazza is in the main square of town. The funny thing about it – it is not square! It is shaped like a triangle. Near the center of the square is a large cistern, thus the name. This is where the locals used to get their clean water. It was built in 1346. The plaza is lined with ancient homes, towers, and restaurants and is still a social meeting point for the locals. Feel free to grab vino and relax!

San Gimignano Towers of Tuscany Italy | A Guide on What to do and See

If you look to the left of the cistern, you will see Palazzo Tortoli which was once a historic palace in San Gimignano. You can tell which building it is by the double row of arched windows with white marble columns running through the middle.

San Gimignano Towers of Tuscany Italy | A Guide on What to do and See

Torre del Diavolo

If you go north of the piazza, to Palazzo dei Cortesi, you will see Devils Tower (Torre del Diavolo.) Legend says the owner left for a trip and when he returned the tower was somehow taller than when he left. The townspeople decide this must have been the work of the devil, and the name stuck. Seems like a tall tale (hee hee – pun intended.)

San Gimignano Towers of Tuscany Italy | A Guide on What to do and See

If you look to the left of the tower, you will see a small street – Vicolo dell’Oro. Oro means gold, and this was the street where many of the goldsmiths worked. These special goldsmiths would beat gold until it was paper-thin to use as decorations. Cool, right?

San Gimignano Towers of Tuscany Italy | A Guide on What to do and See

Torre Rognosa

Next, you can see the Old Palace of the Podesta, built in the 12th century, where the mayor lived. It was also a jail. In the archway is Theather dei Leggieri.

Do you see the giant tower with a clock? This is the second tallest tower in San Gimignano, standing at 51 meters (167 feet high.) It is one of the best preserved, and this tower is the one that the city said no other towers could be taller than back in the day.

San Gimignano Towers of Tuscany Italy | A Guide on What to do and See

Torre dei Cugnanesi

In the SW corner of the piazza is Arco dei Becci. This was the original gate to the city. It was protected by the large tower to the left, Torre die Cugnanesi. If you look closely, you can see what looks like a military overlook, used for protection. In actuality, this was the wall of the original ancient city.

San Gimignano Towers of Tuscany Italy | A Guide on What to do and See

Torre dei Becci

To the left of Cugnanesi, you will see another large tower coming from the heart of the building, Torre dei Becci, dating back to the 13th century. The Becci family members were wealthy merchants and politicians. Like the other towers, this was built to show power.

San Gimignano Towers of Tuscany Italy | A Guide on What to do and See

Torri degli Ardinghelli 

The Ardinghelli family was one of the most important families of San Gimignano. They became rich by trade and finance. The Salvucci family, their archenemies, was the other powerful family in town. These two towers were built to anger the Salvucci family. They were built higher than the Clock Tower but were cut down due to the height law.

San Gimignano Towers of Tuscany Italy | A Guide on What to do and See

Pellari Palace Tower

Directly to the left of the Ardinghelli towers sits the Pellari Tower. No one knows the exact date of its construction. A good guess is around 1237.  It is a simple tower, and you can pick it out by the decorative brick, slanted roof, and lack of windows.

San Gimignano Towers of Tuscany Italy | A Guide on What to do and See

Torri dei Salvucci

These two towers belonged to the other most important family of the city, the Salvucci family. These were built to surpass the two Ardinghelli towers on the other side of the square. They were taller than the allowed height and have been cut down to size. The locals call them the twin towers.

San Gimignano Towers of Tuscany Italy | A Guide on What to do and See

Torre Campatelli 

In the heart of San Gimignano, on Via San Giovanni, you can see the House and Tower Campatelli (built near the end of the 12th century.) Over the years, it has had many facelifts and additions. It is the only tower in town to have the original interior restored with furnishings. To see the house and tower, you should reserve tickets ahead of time –> reserve tickets here <– It’s a very cool place!

San Gimignano Towers of Tuscany Italy | A Guide on What to do and See

Torre Chigi

The Chigi Tower is the small tower in the middle of the Salvucci towers and Clock Tower. This tower is one of the smallest and was built in 1280. It’s the cute one in the middle of the photo.


San Gimignano Towers of Tuscany Italy | A Guide on What to do and See

Torre Grossa

The big tower is the highest tower of San Gimignano (hence the name) and is located directly next to the church. You can go up the tower and enjoy the views. It was built in 1311 and stands 177 feet tall (54 meters.)

San Gimignano Towers of Tuscany Italy | A Guide on What to do and See

Piazza Duomo

This piazza is north of Piazza della Cistern and is where the main church of the San Gimignano stands. Inside the church are some amazingly preserved frescos. Stop by and take a look!

San Gimignano Towers of Tuscany Italy | A Guide on What to do and See

City Hall and Museum of Sacred Art

To the left of the church, you will see the gorgeous City Hall. You can walk around to a small courtyard. There is also gorgeous art, frescos and ancient relics, inside the City Hall at the Museum of Sacred Art. It is open daily and you can pay at the door.

San Gimignano Towers of Tuscany Italy | A Guide on What to do and See

The square just down from City Hall is known as Piazza della Propositura. At the right side of the square is the Lodge of the Baptistery. It has beautifully engraved scenes showing the baptism of Jesus.

San Gimignano Towers of Tuscany Italy | A Guide on What to do and See

Don’t forget to taste the local cheese and wine! San Gimignano is one of the few areas in Tuscany known for white wine. If you want to do a local wine tour, reserve tickets here. I mean, it is wine country. Mamma Mia!

San Gimignano Towers of Tuscany Italy | A Guide on What to do and See

I know you are hungry after all that walking! Check out the gourmet shops in San Gimignano known for selling wild boar sausage and prosciutto. If you are a food lover or cook, and want to take a local cooking class paired with dinner and wine, reserve tickets here.

San Gimignano Towers of Tuscany Italy | A Guide on What to do and See

Lastly, in the main square, is the most famous gelato shop in Italy, Galateria Dondoli. It has won “best gelato” in Italy and Europe, multiple times. You will see a huge line, but it is worth the wait. If you are looking for info on eating out in Italy, check out how to dine out in Italy.

San Gimignano Towers of Tuscany Italy | A Guide on What to do and See

If you have not had enough of towers in Tuscany, Check out this guide on how to enjoy the Tower of Pisa without the crowds.   Pisa is only a hop, skip, and a jump from San Gimignano.  There is another little know lake town, called Lake Orta, that if you are looking for cool and unknown this is the place. 

Language

The spoken language in San Gimignano is Italian, and English speakers are limited. If you want the full experience of Italy, take a free Italian lesson with our friends at Pimsleur.

Pimsleur Italian

I hope you enjoyed the Towers of San Gimignano as much as we did! Did I forget anything or do you have any questions? If so, please drop a comment below!

If you love our stories, please subscribe to the blog (in the upper corner – black triangle.) Or Below on mobile. We won’t spam you. We just send an email when we write a new and exciting story.

If you want to read more about our adventures in Italy, check out our other stories here.

 

– Stacey

Booking.com

33 Comments

  • Reply May 19, 2017

    Jennifer

    These buildings are so old and romantic! I love the narrow alleyways. It's great there's so much to see in this little town.
  • Reply April 30, 2017

    Ami

    Wow....taller the tower, the mightier you are ....and that too, such lovely towers. Fantastic legend. Loved your pics and from all your description, I know I will love the place too. I do hope to re-visit Italy one of these days and I hope to add this then
  • Reply April 29, 2017

    Tae

    Beautiful buildings - so unique to Italy! When I was here, I didn't pay attention to the incredible architecture to this much detail - but now I really wish I did!
  • Reply April 28, 2017

    Cai Dominguez

    This is a very interesting story. Like building empires to show your power, instead, they build towers to compete with each other. That might sound silly but look at now this a really interesting place to visit. Would love to see this someday :) Cai Dominguez recently posted...To My 26-Year-Old Self, This Is How Travel Changed Your LifeMy Profile
  • Reply April 27, 2017

    Miriam Ernst

    Oh, I love those little delicatessen shops with different kinds of sausages and cheeses, especially the Italian ones! The city sounds wonderful, would love to visit. Miriam Ernst recently posted...Outfit of the Week: Elegant at WorkMy Profile
  • Wow! This is a seriously comprehensive post on this awesome town! Thanks a ton for putting this together. It preps me nicely for a return!
  • What a beautiful town! I think Tuscany is such a gorgeous region. And I love the story of how the towers got shortened. The one about the devil's tower is very interesting too. Stella the Travelerette recently posted...How to Have a Perfect Day in Madrid, SpainMy Profile
  • Reply April 27, 2017

    Siddharth and Shruti

    Love the architecture and the back story as well. Competing for a taller tower. Interesting! The cooking class sounds like a fantastic idea. We love Italian food.
  • Reply April 27, 2017

    Suruchi

    The San Gimignano looks so interesting with so much of history and so many towers. The Gold ones are really fascinating. I enjoyed reading the stories behind these towers. Your pictures are too amazing. Completely loved this post. Suruchi recently posted...Hotel Review: Country Inn MussoorieMy Profile
  • Reply April 26, 2017

    NowThatsAHoneymoon

    What a beautiful place!!!!! This is certainly on our bucket list now, we are planning to do a road trip in Italy and I'm looking at which towns we can stop by. The place looks massive too, looking forward to visiting San Gimignano.
  • Reply April 26, 2017

    Tina Gleisner

    Loved your story about the towers of San Gimignano. Guess things haven't changed that much with people building bigger & bigger houses, vs taller & taller towers. They passed laws limited the height of towers & people ignored them ... so they cut the towers down, oh my.
  • Reply April 25, 2017

    Monika

    Very clear.and rich guide. I feel convinced and if i have a chance to go to italy i will surely go there, i love this pellaria palace and the tiny alleys. So cozy !
  • Reply April 25, 2017

    Haze Tolentino

    I always get emotional looking at old beautiful architectural designs. They just tell a lot of stories. Thank you for this. I am going to pay a visit to this when I get to go to Italy.
  • Reply April 25, 2017

    E H

    Love this town so much! I have never been to Italy, but would love to visit some day, precisely because of this enchanting beauty of the old architecture, and history that old European towns have. What an experience!
  • Reply April 25, 2017

    Karen Jolly

    Italy's historical sights are truly remarkable! Being there is like you're going back to the old time.
  • Reply April 25, 2017

    Iza Abao

    Fabio Apt Gimignano looks like it has the best location and accessible to a lot of tourist destinations. It would definitely save me time and money to explore San Gimignano Towers. I would like to taste gelato in Gelateria Dondoli. : ) Iza Abao recently posted...Where To Eat In Hobart Harbour & Salamanca PlaceMy Profile
  • Reply April 25, 2017

    Leigh Anne Borders

    Italy is on my bucket list. I truly hope to be able to travel here one day and check out all the beautiful places.
  • Reply April 25, 2017

    eazynazy

    WOW your pictures are amazingly beautiful. italy is definitely on my bucket list and this place looks beautiful
  • Reply April 24, 2017

    Rosey

    How wonderful to spend some time living in Italy. There are so many places there I would love to see.
  • Thanks for putting such an intriguing place on my radar. Love the history behind the towers at San Gimignano, and how the length of the tower was synonymous with amount of power you held at one point of time.Even though the length was curtailed, the towers still stand out in the beautiful pictures that you have shared. Arnav @ Eat, Travel, Live and REPEAT recently posted...Pudducherry - The Scuba Diving Paradise of IndiaMy Profile
  • Reply April 24, 2017

    Jen Joslin

    There are so many places in Italy that I've never heard of, and San Gimignano towers is one. Thanks for creating such a detailed guide! It looks so beautiful there!
  • Reply April 24, 2017

    Rebecca

    Wow this really does look like the most beautiful place! I still cannot believe I haven't visited this part of Italy! There is so much to see as well! I would especially like to explore the Piazza della Cisterna!
  • Reply April 24, 2017

    Carol Cassara

    We are flying to Paris soon and this makes me want to visit Tuscany as well. I would love to walk around here and explore the different places! It's nice that they have the best gelato as well.
  • Reply April 24, 2017

    Elizabeth O.

    It would be nice to visit this beautiful place! It's been a long time since I last went to Italy. I really appreciate this guide!
  • Reply April 24, 2017

    Trisha Lyn Fawver

    What a charming town! I think a lot of people miss out on the smaller areas when traveling, so it's nice to see such a comprehensive guide to a lesser-known area. The architecture definitely looks like a great draw to visit and just wander.
  • Reply April 23, 2017

    Megan Jerrard

    So incredible, thanks for putting together this guide! I thought I had travelled throughout a lot of Italy, but every day I swear I read of someplace new within it's borders, like the San Gimignano Towers, with so much incredible history and authenticity, these destinations deserve just as many travelers as the bigger spots like Florence and Rome!
  • Reply April 23, 2017

    Lara

    Tuscany is my favorite part of Italy and Florence also being the favorite city! Great photos :)
  • Reply April 23, 2017

    Kerri

    It's such a beautiful town and being so close to Florence, is it any wonder!! I love all the towers here, just makes this place really quite unique. I always think it's a tough call finding the "best" gelato in Italy. All of it is pretty special to me :)
  • Reply April 23, 2017

    wendy

    I love all the different photos you have taken showing everything around! What an excellent place to take your family for vacation and the sites you have mentioned gives someone a little bit of an idea of where to stay and what to do! I would love to visit one day and have this page bookmarked to remember all the great advice!
  • Reply April 22, 2017

    Gokul Raj

    That is a nice piece of history. The tower looks pretty weather-beaten. Standing the test of time. Gokul Raj recently posted...Say Goodbye to Street Food in Bangkok as the City bans Street VendorsMy Profile
  • Reply April 22, 2017

    Danik

    Aggghhhh.... another place I need to chuck on my Italian bucket list! This place looks totally amazing and I so want to check it out. All those towers! #towerporn! Danik recently posted...30 Pictures That Will Inspire a Visit to KeralaMy Profile
  • Reply April 22, 2017

    Indrani

    Wow! A good comprehensive post on Gimignano. I visited this UNESCO site some 7 years back and was totally awed by the old town feel. The terracotta souvenirs were so cute. I remember buying one, need to hunt it out now. Indrani recently posted...Faces of India – 313, from ChhattisgarhMy Profile
  • Reply April 22, 2017

    Rhonda Albom

    What a fantastic town. I would love to see all those towers for real, although your photos are great, and really give a feel for what the town must be like. Rhonda Albom recently posted...Photo Tour: Plaza del Pilar in Saragossa SpainMy Profile

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